10 Apr

Super 14 Preview – Down to the wire
by WAJ
10 Apr 2009

This years comp could well be the most competitive yet. Going into round 9, 5 remaining after that, there are 7 teams within 6 points of 4th.

The top 3 teams and 5th are yet to have the bye, which will bring them back to the field, and 3 of the top 5 have yet to travel. The Sharks are a lock in for 1st or 2nd, but the other three spots are all up for grabs! And all 6 games this weekend are still live as to the Top 4 make up, though a loss to the Blues, Force, Brumbies or Highlanders would almost put paid to any chances for them.

1 5/8 rankings: Duck, Weepu, Brett – pretty average form from all 3.

Blues v Lions
What to make of the Blues? Pre-season expectations were fairly low from a team on the rebuild, then they started to win a few, before 2 pretty crap performances and a loss of confidence. Sprinkled with All Blacks they have failed to deliver any consistency from week to week, even half to half, with the No.8, halfback, 1 5/8 axis all over the place and a constantly changing midfield 2 problem areas. Pat you should know what your best team, in their best positions, is, and not be experimenting all friggin’ season. This week is option 35 for the backline – flakey at half, huge talent in the midfield and who knows what to expect from the wingers. And the opposition are no slugs either – some very good players who will take advantage of mistakes. No doubt this will be one of those virtuoso performances from the Blues which will again lift spirits for another week, before we get belted back into shape the following week.
Blues 13+

Force v Hurricanes
The Hurricanes cannot lose this game and remain serious title contenders. Mind you on last weeks form that will be bloody difficult – we all know the erratic nature of this team, but why, when your midfield has been cutting cappers all game, do you then go for forward drive after forward drive, to be ultimately turned over by one of the best trench warfare sides in the business – bloody ridiculous. Of course the 3 basic errors on defence were the ultimate killer – but Weepu was unconvincing all game, Eaton still a friggin seagull and the loosies not hunting together though they all had individual moments. They look better with Ripia given a chance, and if Thrush is fit to give them more go forward they should be too strong. But the Force were tremendous last week, winning with ease despite being well down on the possession stakes, they looked like a team in form. Not a great record at home though so other sides always back themselves.
Hurricanes 1 – 12

Highlanders v Reds
Everyones favorite 2nd team have really got themselves on a roll, with tactics that utilise their big T5, mobile flankers and runners out wide to a tee. Magnificent against the Bulls – a repeat of that will see them have a convincing win over a Reds team that is still very inconsistent from week to week. An unbeaten home record from the Highlanders will be continued.
Highlanders 1 – 12

Brumbies v Storm
Gotta feel for the Brumbies – they would all be feeling very empty at the moment after the tragedy of Shawn Mackay’s death. Is the motivation there to get up for this game – statements to the good have been made through the week and you would expect so, but jeez it must be tough. You can’t help think that not all will be switched on and that is the problem – someone not quite with it a couple of times in the game is enough with the likes of Jean de Villiers around. Mind you they aren’t up against much, a team who have never won in Canberra and are really struggling to score points at the moment, 6 and 7 in there last 2 games. Couldn’t have them here and think enough people will be up for the Brumbies to say good bye to their mate in emphatic style.
Brumbies 13+

Waratahs v Bulls
The Bulls have won the last 3 games between these top 4 sides including the last time they were in Sydney, so there will be no fears on that front. Two teams who really pride themselves on their forward play so we will see a titanic battle up front, probably not a lot of points scored, and in fact the better goal kicker on the night could decide this result for their team. And if that is the case I back the Bulls against the erraticness of Halangahu and Beale. Could be trench warfare with the odd snipe – will the likes of the Flash and Will Turner get the chance? In a low scoring affair with the kicking game of he Bulls slightly superior.
Bulls 1 – 12

Cheetahs v Sharks
A bloody massacre I tell ya – a massacre!
Sharks by a thousand

And no Matt Goddard this week – be thankful for small mercies.

Regards Waj

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